Game Changers, Week 1
Today we’re starting a new series called “Game Changers.” We’re looking at some popular board games that represent one of the struggles of life, and we’re going to see how the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes the game.
The game for today is Trouble. Have any of you played this game? I spent hours playing this game as a kid – and then I spent hours playing this game as a parent.
The object of Trouble is to be the first person to get your pieces around the board. So you’re moving around the board, and you’re just about to make it, you’re almost there, and then—somebody lands on top of you, and you’re in trouble. You have to go all the way back to the beginning. You thought you were gonna make it, but your hopes are dashed.
And isn’t that just like real life?
You’re a student—and you’re writing a paper or you’re taking a test, and you thought you did pretty well—until the teacher gives it back and your hopes are dashed.
You’re trying to get a job, and they like your resume, and the interview goes well, and you think you’ve got it – but your hopes are dashed.
You’re struggling in your marriage, and you’re going to counseling, and you’re working on it, and it looks like you’re going to stay together, but then – your hopes are dashed.
You’re a teenager—and there’s this boy you like, or this girl you like—and you’re thinking maybe they like you too—but then you get shot down, and your hopes are dashed.
You’re sitting in a doctor’s office, and you hear the doctor coming down the hall, and you’re hoping he’s going to come in and say, “Good news!”—but instead he walks in the room with a grim expression on his face—and your hopes are dashed.
I asked earlier how many have played the game Trouble. The fact is we’ve all played it. We’ve all had trouble. We’ve all had times when our hopes were dashed.
Do me a favor. Think about how you’ve played the game of Trouble in real life, especially if it’s something you’re going through right now.
Let’s bow our heads and close our eyes, and give that some thought.
So Luke tells us there were two guys walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Emmaus was a little village seven miles away. Luke says these guys were followers of Jesus, and the fact that they were leaving the other followers and going back home tells me they had given up. They were discouraged. They were defeated. They were in despair. Their hopes had been dashed.
And when I say their hopes were dashed, I don’t just mean they were sad because they’d lost a friend. I mean that they were hoping that Jesus was the Messiah that they had been looking for, who would rescue their people from the Roman Empire. They were hoping that Jesus would drive out the Romans and usher in a new age of peace and prosperity. They were hoping that their people would be back on top! And all those hopes were dashed when they saw Jesus being nailed to a cross by the very Romans they hoped he would defeat.
It was like the Romans had landed on top of them and sent them back to the beginning, back home, back to Emmaus. And Luke says that as they were walking, they talked. And the word Luke uses in the original Greek means they were talking strongly, which could indicate they were having a debate – or as we say in the South, “a discussion.” And so I wonder, what was that discussion like?
Maybe one of ‘em, whose name was Cleopas, said, “It’s over. Jesus is dead.”
And maybe the other one said, “But hang on – what about the women?”
“What about the women?”
“They said the tomb was empty! They said they saw angels! And they said that the angels said that Jesus is alive!”
“C’mon, you know women get crazy ideas in their heads. Their testimony isn’t even allowed in court.”
“Ok, but then some of the men checked it out, and they said the tomb was empty, too!”
“Yeah, well, they probably went to the wrong tomb. And the women probably dreamed those angels. But you and I have got to face the facts. Jesus is dead. ‘Cause if he’s alive, where is he?”
And about that time, a stranger showed up and started walking with them, and the two were probably glad for this because they were tired of arguing with each other, and they were looking forward to changing the subject. But the stranger said, “So what are you guys talking about?”
And the two guys stopped walking. And when they stopped like that, all their discouragement caught up with them, and it showed on their faces. They stood there quiet, looking down.
And finally Cleopas looked at the stranger and said, “You have got to be the only person in town who doesn’t know the things that are going on!”
And here’s the ironic thing. The stranger was actually the only one in town who really did know what was going on! Because the stranger was Jesus! Jesus was right there walking beside them.
But they didn’t know it yet. They didn’t recognize him. And they were still pretty discouraged, so they weren’t thrilled when the stranger said, “What things? What things are you talking about?”
And they sighed. And Cleopas said, “The things that happened to Jesus of Nazareth.” The stranger nodded, and they started walking again.
And Cleopas said, “He was a prophet who did miracles.”
And maybe the other one chimed in, “Powerful miracles.”
“He taught people.”
“Powerful teaching. Crowds came to hear what he said.”
“And he changed lives.”
“He changed our lives.”
And they walked in silence for awhile, then Cleopas said, “And they killed him. One of our own handed him over to the religious leaders. And the religious leaders handed him over to the Romans. And the Romans nailed him to a cross. And now he’s dead.”
“And we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”
They walked some more in silence. And then the other one said, “This morning some of our women went out to the tomb and his body was gone. And some of our men checked it out, and they said the same thing. And we don’t know what to make of this stuff.”
And at this point, the stranger started laughing! And Cleopas and his friend were a bit put out. How insensitive! How could he laugh at a time like this! Who is this guy?
But the stranger looked at them with joy in his eyes and laughter in his voice, and he said, “Oh, how foolish you are! Don’t you know the prophets said this is exactly what would happen to the Messiah?”
And with one voice, the other two said, “Huh?”
The stranger said, “Yes, yes, yes. Scripture has said all along that the Messiah would suffer—pain, rejection, humiliation, death—and then after that, enter his glory.”
And again, the other two said, “Huh?” And Cleopas added, “Look, I’ve studied Scripture all my life, and I’ve never seen what you’re talking about.”
And the stranger said, “Well, then let me explain it to you.” And Luke says, “Beginning with Moses and the prophets, the stranger (who was Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Now Luke doesn’t tell us exactly which Scriptures Jesus talked about:
Maybe he talked about Genesis, where God told the serpent that the woman’s offspring would crush his head.
Maybe he talked about Exodus and the Passover lamb, when God saved his people through the shedding of blood.
Maybe he talked about King David, the forerunner of the Messiah, who came from a backwater town called Bethlehem, who was tiny and overlooked, who was persecuted and suffered before he became king.
Maybe he quoted from the prophet Isaiah:
And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all… [and] after he has suffered, he will see the light of life…by knowledge of him, my righteous servant will justify many.
(Isaiah 53:6, 11 New International Version) And as the stranger explained the Scriptures, Cleopas and his friend started to think, “Yeah, yeah, this makes sense!” And they started to see that the movement wasn’t over—it was just beginning! And they saw that their hopes weren’t dashed—that in fact, their hopes were going to come true in ways they never dreamed!
And then, before they knew it, they were home. And the stranger said “Nice walking with y’all” and kept going, but they said, “No, no, no, stay with us! Come spend the night with us. We don’t have much, but what we have is yours.”
And Luke says, “They urged him strongly,” meaning they really wanted him to come in. So he did. And they sat down to eat, and Cleopas put the bread before the stranger and said, “You do the honors.” It was customary for the guest to say the blessing and break the bread. So the stranger picked up the bread and held it up and said, “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, who bringest forth bread from the earth.” And then he broke the bread.
And at that moment, Cleopas and his friend noticed that the hands breaking that bread were scarred. Deep, ugly scars. The scars of somebody who had suffered. The scars of somebody who had been … crucified.
And they looked from the hands up into the face, and they saw that it was him! It was Jesus! He was alive! And he’d been with them the whole time! In the midst of their grief, in the midst of their sadness – when they thought it was over, and hope was lost, Jesus was there. He was right there with them, and they didn’t even know it.
And the second they realized this, before they could say anything, BOOM, he was gone. He just disappeared!
And Cleopas said, “I told you he was alive!”
And the other one said, “What are you talking about, Mr. ‘face the facts, it’s over, he’s dead.’”
“Well, you know the women said …”
“You said women can’t be trusted!”
“Yeah, but the men checked it out.”
“You said they went to the wrong tomb!”
“Well, when we saw him on the road, I knew it was him!”
“No you didn’t and neither did I. But you know what? When he explained the Scriptures, and we started to see things from God’s point of view, our whole situation looked different, didn’t it?”
“Yes, it did.”
“Our hope was rekindled. Our hearts burned within us.”
“Yes. They did.”
“And then when we asked him to come in. When we invited him in. That’s when he really revealed himself to us.”
“Yes. It was.”
“When our hopes were dashed, he was still there, walking beside us. And when we invited him in, he changed everything.”
We’ve all had trouble. We’ve all had times when our hopes were dashed.
But here’s the Game Changer: The risen Jesus is with you. He’s walking right beside you. You may not realize it, but he’s there.
And if you invite him in, that’s when he reveals himself, and that’s when things start to change.
Maybe Jesus comes in and he changes your situation. Maybe he changes the way you see your situation. Maybe he changes you and gives you the strength you need to deal with your situation.
But it only happens when you invite him in.
Let’s bow our heads.
Game Changers, Week 1